Friday, 13 July 2012

Hurricane Heathcote blow Wigston away (With a light breeze and a whimper)

Round 3 of the Harrod Cup drew Wigston to play Heathcote Arms at Wigston. Speaking from a Wigston point of view, it was nice to get a home draw after away trips to Ashby and Syston. It is sometimes hard to captain a side and persuade players that long trips like this are beneficial for their chess, but more than satisfactory results had been achieved so far. This clash of the titans pitched top of the table Heathcote Arms against second placed (by 'goal difference') Wigston.

And so the invincibles rolled in to the arena, this not being the Harrod Cup players, Martin Burrows and Graham Sharpe played their County Championship match on the same night, they were followed by the Heathcote Arms and Wigston players preparing to do battle. After deciding to toss for colours, Ben Vaughan shook hands with Colin Ross and tossed the coin. An excited shout of 'Heads' - rather like the excited call of 'check' when playing a better graded player (sometimes you don't even get to check them!) and the coin fell tails. Ben threw the gauntlet down to his team - 'What do we want to do team?' ...... (tumbleweed rolls by) ...... (sound of crickets breaking the silence) ...... 'Erm I don't know' retorted the evergreen Barrie Cooper, 'Let's play white,' he continued. Such decisiveness and boldness was to bode well for him. It appeared that Heathcote weren't happy with black pieces first, a few grumbles of 'Oh oh, that doesn't suit us' and 'I'm not sure about this' (presumably not sure about which board to sit at). Battle commenced.

First to finish was Haka (now apparently Hacker) Dave. Taking the definition of rapid play chess to a new level, they were finished after around 15-20 minutes. A very cunning fork of queen and king with a knight that couldn't be taken because of a pinned pawn, the killer blow. An excellent move well spotted and executed by the lethal Haka Dave. (I'm sorry chaps, but I prefer Haka than Hacker - he isn't a serial killer! I'm not sure that adjectives like executed and lethal are helping my case). First blood (there I go again) to Heathcote. By this time Colin had removed Frank Hulford's bishop for a pawn after Frank got in a huge mess against Colin's French defence. Paul Winterton vs Ray Beach and Barrie Cooper vs Mike Cowley looked pretty even. After watching Colin grind Frank down by pressurising doubled pawns and making use of his advantage, I switched to looking at Paul and Ray's board.

During this time and after a very short discussion that probably went along the lines of 'Shall we play our next game?' and 'Yes', Simon Dean and Haka Dave played their second match. This one wasn't quite so straightforward for Haka Dave however, from looking fairly even, Haka Dave blew open Simon's Kingside with huge mating threats. Simon defended fairly well and it looked for half a second like he might have had some counterplay on the queenside. After looking away for approximately two seconds, I heard an excited shout of 'Mate'. I looked over to see that Simon was keeping calm whilst wanting to simultaneously throw the chess board across the room and jump out of the window. All it needed was Haka Dave to throw some haka shapes and that would have made the night. Heathcote were two up before the other boards had finished their first games.

Soon after that Frank's match against Colin and Paul's match against Ray finished (although I can't remember which way round). Paul managed to keep his advantage of being a piece up and having an outside passed pawn to force Ray's resignation and Colin finished Frank off with a very sexy discovered mate, moving a rook out of the way to a bishop pointing at a cornered King, keeping the flight square occupied. (Finished in style by asking 'Is that mate?').

After the first round of matches, Wigston were 3-1 down (or 4-1 given that Haka Dave and Simon had finished). This meant that Wigston had to win all 3 of the remaining games to salvage a draw.

After each of the games looking pretty even (and Haka Dave and Simon playing a friendly) all of a sudden I heard the call of 'draw?'. I was thinking 'If that is a Heathcote player offering our boy a draw, then instantly it's a no'. I look over and Paul and Ray were shaking hands on a draw. I was then experiencing what Simon may have felt earlier against Haka Dave, that draw lost us the match. It was Paul that offered the draw, much to my amusement. Soon after Colin and Frank agreed a draw after deciding that there was actually no play for either of them with bad bishops each and Kings to one side of the board. I think that I summed it up with 'That was boring'.

Last to finish was Barrie against Mike. Barrie looked in an excellent position, but had to tread carefully, (naturally against a player graded 40 points higher). A poor patzer's analysis of the position was that Barrie had a strong kingside attack, but Mike's defending pieces actually had a threat by themselves. Barrie then cursed under his breath. It looked like he had missed a mate in one. Sorry to mention this again, but once more I felt like Simon against Haka Dave, picking up a chess board and throwing it across the room and jumping out of the window. Thankfully though, Barrie did manage to keep up the attack and prevailed for the win.

The match ended, a 5-3 defeat for Wigston and a deserved victory for the strong Heathcote side. After buying Colin and Ray a drink and Haka Dave a pint of 'I'm alright tar', I shared a drink and chat with the boys in the bar. My question of 'Is it the home captain or the winning captain that buys the drink?' was more in hope than expectation.

It was great to see you all again and I'll drop by soon and say hello, or see you in the league next season (maybe).

Ben Vaughan
Wigston Chess Club.

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